Woe betide the unsuspecting foreign player who waves an imaginary card…
There are double standards everywhere in life but sadly they do appear to be particularly prevalent when it comes to English football. And it all seems to centre on the concept of how the game operates in this country. Ever since I can remember, there’s been a perceived English way of playing football that’s promoted with genuine zeal and pride; sold on the basis of morals, principles and honour.
English players don’t dive. English players love a tackle. English players are honest. And we certainly don’t like Johnny Foreigner coming over here and bringing his “bad habits”.
In basic terms, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with these ideals. Diving is embarrassing, and we all love to see a good, strong, wholehearted tackle. But I think claiming these principles are always adhered would be, at very best, naïve. Like with so many situations, when someone feels they are directly involved or affected, sometimes their view wavers…
For example, a common gripe of the average football fan is that it’s not a “man’s game” anymore; that proper tackles have become fouls in the modern game and players rolling around pretending to be hurt is ruining the sport. Yet if an opposing player gently slaps the face of one of our own, the outrage and indignation goes through the roof.
He’s raised his hand! That’s a red ref! RED CARD REF!!
At the prospect of the opposition being reduced to 10 men, suddenly the need for it to be a “man’s game” becomes less important. There’s palpable short term gain over long term honour.
What’s also interesting is the perceived difference between what is essentially the same act – and I find this one perhaps the most infuriating. In nearly every professional game you see, you’ll come across players encouraging – verbally – the referee to dish out yellow and red cards. And encouraging is the nice way of putting it. Players are constantly telling the referee to book an opponent, imploring him to show a red card for a nasty foul, desperately pointing out that someone’s already been booked when they commit a subsequent offence.
This is apparently all part of the game. You will never, ever, hear anyone complain about this, or a pundit highlight this as unsporting. I lost count of the number of times I saw Ryan Giggs begging a referee to get his notebook out during his playing career, yet Giggs is widely proclaimed as a brilliant professional and all round great guy (with everyone seemingly happy to overlook the fact he had a long-term affair with his brother’s wife - but that’s a whole different story on double standards…).
Yet the second a player, conveniently nearly always one from foreign shores, dares to wave that imaginary card – well, they are open to criticism and anger from all corners. Pundits will be quicker to denounce this act as disgusting and unsporting than Ashley Young is to fling himself over an outstretched leg in the penalty box. Oops sorry, English players don’t dive.
“I HATE to see that – trying to get other players booked”, growled Alan Shearer recently on Match of the Day.
Shearer, never shy about directing his elbow towards a centre back’s face in his own playing days, was also happy to condemn Diego Costa for “crossing the line” in the Chelsea vs Arsenal game by swinging his arm in a particularly Shearer-esque manner.
What it all ultimately seems to come down to is that most players and fans essentially just really, really want to win. So if it’s a choice between pointing out a red card offence to the referee or minding your own business as that’s the more honourable thing to do – well, there’s only ever likely to be one outcome.
Still, at least good old English warriors always stay on their feet.